Music Reviews By Mike White. Doktor Kosmos—Cocktail (Minty Fresh, PO Box 577400, Chicago, IL 60657)
I don’t go to live concerts very often anymore...
Doktor Kosmos—Cocktail (Minty Fresh, PO Box 577400, Chicago, IL 60657)
I don’t go to live concerts very often anymore. I got sick and tired of being jostled by obnoxious teens, die-hard old school punx, and new-to-the-scene frat boys who felt that it was necessary to form a mosh pit for every show they attended. "Yeah, rip it up Tori Amos!"
Not being into music as much as I once was, there are few "small" bands with which I’m familiar. So, the chance of going to a show that won’t be mobbed with the aforementioned assholes is pretty slim. Luckily, the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor is a small enough venue that even a band with a huge draw is limited by space. That’s not to say that mod Swedish hipsters, Komeda (see CdC #8), have a large following. They should, but for better or for worse, I had plenty of elbowroom when they played the Blind Pig a few months back.
Apart from the show itself, one of the best parts of the evening was the pre-show music. Completely entranced by the stripped down Casio sounds and deadpan delivery, I had to find out what I was listening to. Snooping around the soundboard, I discovered that I was being treated to none other than Komeda’s touring keyboard player, Doktor Kosmos.
Doktor Kosmos’ album, Cocktail, is an odd mix of Wesley Willis instrumentation and lyrics, sung with art-rock nihilism. Sticking to full-out quirky tunes like "Porno-Person" and "Don’t Look at Photographs," the good Doktor occasionally delves into some affably funky ditties like "Legalize It. Now." (an apparent pro-drug anthem that is merely a repetition of the song’s title) and "Funk Off" which sounds like a jam session at the Armada Room at the Holiday Inn.
Doktor Kosmos’ Cocktail might not be everyone’s drink of choice but it’s damn tasty to me: humorous, offbeat, and enjoyable. — MW
The Amps—Pacer (Elektra Entertainment, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019)
I’ve been a big Pixies fan for quite a few years. That’s not to say, however, that I think they can do no wrong. I never much got into Bossanova or Trompe Le Monde and might have made some different choices when putting together the "Best of" disc for Death To The Pixies. For starters, I'd throw the "Best of" disc out and package the live material of the second disc with the recent Pixies At The BBC album.
When it comes to the spawn of the Pixies, I’ve not been overly impressed by Frank Black’s work—without being tempered by Kim Deal’s low, dulcet tones, his screeching gets old rather quickly. I can listen to a song or two, but an entire album overdoes it. Meanwhile, the Breeders, though often very low-key, have a terrific sound. Yet, the group I enjoy most that was founded after the demise of the Pixies is the seldom-mentioned Kim Deal side project, The Amps.
Created after the Breeders were put on hold when Kim’s sister, Kelly, had to go into rehab, The Amps boast a much less polished sound than The Breeders. The stripped down production values are reminiscent of the classic Pixies album, Surfer Rosa. Noisy, crunchy, and, moreover, rockin’, Pacer is a favorite album to shove into my CD player and enjoy.
Like Surfer Rosa and all of the other Pixies albums, Pacer doesn’t stick to one particular style—the title track is a simple, pretty tune while "Empty Glasses" is a overmodulated, toe-tapping jam. Certainly, no group is going to be able to fill the musical void left after the break up of The Pixies but The Amps are as close as anyone’s gotten to performing such a feat so far!— MW
Kalyanji, Adandji—Bombay The Hard Way (Motel Records, 210 E 49th Street, New York, NY 10017)
From Motel Records, the same label that brought us the groovy Italian-based Vampyros Lesbos Sexadelic Dance Party, comes a new far-out collection of foreign tunes. This time around, the aural assault smells of tandoori and curry with Bombay The Hard Way. This collection of funked-out tunes has been culled from the immense catalogue of action films made in Bombay in the ’70s scored by the Shah brothers, Kalyanji and Adandji. Beefed up with some boombastic beats by DJ Shadow, peppered with some hilarious soundbytes, and fresh blended by Dan The Automator; Bombay The Hard Way is as palatable as some spicy satay with a bonus side of hot buttered Hindi soul.
Reflected in Bombay The Hard Way are sounds as disparate as plaintive spaghetti western harmonicas, thunderous surf drum beats, serpentine wah-wah guitars, twangy sitars, and violins that echo the cry of the muezzin—all woven together to create a tapestry of whacked-out, infectiously groovy tunes. Definite head-bobbing music (just don’t dig it too hard or your fez will fall off). — MW
Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited—The Fluid Soundbox (Mai Tai Records, 16331 Gothard Street Suite D, Huntington Beach, CA 92647)
The price was reasonable, the cover art was cool (reminiscent of Stereolab’s Dots and Loops duo-color scheme), and I like Stereolab, so I picked this disc up at Tower. I'd say that it was a mistake, as the group is not Stereolab but, rather, Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited—big difference. Yet, I don’t regret my mistake for a minute!
Mixing parts Latin rhythm with twangy guitars and an interstellar organ, SSSU has a great sound. Reminiscent of the Ventures when they were at their best, The Fluid Soundbox recalls an ultramod spy movie that has yet to be made. It'd include kung fu fights ("Dragon City"), mad scientists ("Robot A Go Go"), loud dance clubs ("The Wobbler"), vampish femme fatales ("Love Goddess") and microfilm cleverly encased in a faux antiquity ("Mummy Walk"). Best if played loudly!— MW
Various Artists—The Iron Giant Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Rhino Records, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025-4900)
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for offbeat music. It could be that my favorite record while growing up was K-Tel’s Goofy Gold collection, which sported great tunes like "Beep Beep" and "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport". Or, it might be due to all those trips from Riverview out to my family’s cottage in Irish Hills where our radio was invariably tuned to WHND 560 AM—an oldies station with a playlist overflowing with crooners and doo-woppers from the fifties.
The Iron Giant soundtrack boasts a boatload of kooky jams from the Atomic Age like The Tyrones’ "Blast Off", Jimmy Lloyd’s "I Got A Rocket In My Pocket", The Ames Brothers’ "Destination Moon", and Jimmie Haskell’s "Rockin’ In The Orbit"—a phenomenal instrumental that employs a satellite beep as part of the rhythm section. The aforementioned tunes along with the whacked-out "Salt Peanuts" by The Nutty Squirrels and "Kookie’s Mad Pad" by Edd "Kookie" Byrnes were completely unfamiliar to me and quite an enjoyable discovery! The album isn’t without its hits too like The Coaster’s "Searchin'", Mel Torme’s "Comin' Home Baby", and the infernally catchy "Honeycomb" by Jimmie Rodgers.
The only weak spot on the album comes, thankfully, at the end of the disc with two tracks of Michael Kamen’s original score. Ever since hearing the redundancy between Kamen’s work in Raoad House and Die Hard I’ve felt that he’s pretty much a hack—a Jerry Goldsmith wannabe. Otherwise, this disc is without blemish and a great, offbeat listen. — MW
The Muffs—Alert Today Alive Tomorrow (Honest Don’s, PO Box 192027, San Francisco, CA 94119)
One of the most consistent bands working today, The Muffs have a raucous poppy punk sound. Relying on the classic three-chord structure played loud, fast, and hard with great, obnoxious screaming vocals by guitarist/songwriter/producer/goddess Kim Shattuck, the Muffs have thus far put out four albums of finger-poppin', toe-tapping tunes.
Alert Today Alive Tomorrow is the most "mellow" of the Muffs’ work—maybe Kim’s giving her vocal chords a rest while expanding into heretofore unexplored Muffs territory like quiet ballads ("Prettier Than Me"), and instrumentals ("Jack Champagne"). Don’t get me wrong, though, the Muffs still kick some major ass on this record. Songs like "Blow Your Mind" and "I Wish That I Could Be You" are forces to be reckoned with, recalling tracks off Blonder & Blonder (my favorite Muffs album) and souped-up Cheap Trick power pop. Good stuff, Maynard. — MW
Ben Folds Five—The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner (P.O. Box 1028, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-1028)
North Carolina’s Ben Folds Five have returned with more of their piano driven pop, but this time they’ve changed things a bit. Best known for their pensive ballad "Brick", the band has emerged from the studio with their third and strongest album.
Who is Reinhold Messner? The band purports it was the name they had on their fake ID’s, when they were in high school. In reality, he was the first person to climb Mount Everest without the use of extra oxygen. The album, however, deals with far weightier issues than mountaineering. Regret, loss, and unhappiness are the running themes on the disc and they’ve never sounded better. The band is not afraid to challenge themselves creatively and musically, and the experiment pays off. The cello, violin, and flugelhorn are all incorporated into their established piano/bass/drums sound. The album opens with "Narcolepsy", which begins as a classical piano suite before morphing into a full out punk assault on the ivories. The fourth and strongest track, "Magic" written by drummer Darren Jessee, is a haunting tribute to dead loved ones, it is also Folds strongest vocal performance to date.
Other highlights of the album include the Burt Bacharachesque "Don’t Change Your Plans", which brings to mind 1970s radio hits. "Regrets", in which Folds waxes nostalgic over missed opportunities -"I thought about the hours wasted watching TV, drinking beer", Folds gently croons. Elsewhere on the disc, listeners are treated to the wayward youth anthem "Army", which includes the great lyric "Grew a moustache and a mullet, got a job at Chick Fil-A". The closing track "Lullabye" evokes dream imagery, and gives the advice "Let the moonlight put a lid on your dreams". It is a cordial farewell for a great album.
This is an adventurous album that may differ from fan expectations, but it clearly seems like the next logical step for this engaging band.—Chris Cummins
Lords of Acid—Expand Your Head (Antler Subway Records, 7 W 22nd St 4th Floor, New York, NY 10019)
There’s nothing quite like hearing a breathy, sexy gal purr sweet nothings about the joys of S& M set to a booty-shaking beat. The Lords of Acid have made their living doing dig-able ditties about deviant sex with lyrics that capture the emotional responses of being on either side of the spanking, whipping, or paddling.
To call Expand Your Head a "new album by the Lords of Acid" wouldn’t be completely true for the album isn’t completely new. In fact, of the seventeen tracks on Expand Your Head, a mere four songs haven’t been on previous Lords of Acid albums in some form or another. The rest are extended re-mixes that vary in quality from pretty cool ("Lover") to cute ("Spank My Booty") to a waste of time ("Pussy") to completely damn annoying ("Let’s Get High").
As for the original tracks on the album, the new single "Am I Sexy?" is pretty good. It lacks the assaultive production values but that’s what maxi-singles choked full of re-mixes is for, right? Instead, it relies on a damn catchy refrain and squalky horn section. Of the other new tracks, the bonus cover track of "Lady Marmalade" is amusing while "Who Do You Think You Are" is not only the worst song on the album but I’ve never heard the Lords of Acid do anything as bad! I certainly hope that it’s not a sign of the direction they’re headed in.
Expand Your Head could serve as a kind of "Lords of Acid’s Greatest Hits" with the obligatory hit-or-miss new tracks that record companies like to throw on Greatest Hits compilations in hopes of enticing fans who already have all the tunes to invest in a new album. Yet, I'd say that one’s money would be much better spent by forking over the cash for Lust, Voodoo-U, and Our Little Secret and skip Expand Your Head unless your thirst for re-mixes is insatiable!— MW
Back to Issue 10